Joanne Taylor revists the ruins of our country for her book. "The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta." Here she shares her thoughts with NEETA SINGH ANAND
Whether you visit a modern city or a historical place you actually investigate your own place of imagination. Surely, the perfect gift for all imagination is Joanne Taylor's "The Forgotten Palaces of Calcutta". Her love for the city was made apparent during a recent interview, "sometimes I wish I was born in India", she said, as then she would then have more to discover. The story of her discoveries has taken the form of the book. Dressed simply in a dupatta, printed kaftan and salwar, she is an elegant lady wearing almost no make-up. She occasionally pushes back her shoulder-length hair from her face to reveal her exquisitely chiselled features. The book has helped Joanne rediscover neglected slabs of the past.Photographing old houses has been a passion with Joanne. The love of India and Indian culture brought her to Kolkata when her husband Bryan made a business trip in 1971. The first glimpse of Taj Mahal by moonlight is a memory never to be forgotten. But at the same time discovering the old mansions and palaces in ruins compelled the author to restore the past in her own way. While reading the book one can feel that one is peeping into the privacy of the zamindars and the rajas. The mysteries that lie beyond the rusty gates encourage youto step into Kolkata's crowded lanes and to go through their dusty history.The author is an Australian scholar who studied Indian History at the University of Sydney. India with its rich heritage gave her an opportunity to pursue her interest. When she returned in 1998 she realised she had a dream to fulfil. She was not going to join the business lunch and dinners. She managed to step out with joy to the beckoning of the old lanes of North Kolkata, which was like living in another time and place.
Speaking of the past
The photographs make clear what she wanted to document. The city has been filmed, written by different people and photographed on various issues. But this time on a neglected phase of colonial history and its discovery. The author highlights the architecture during the nawabs and its conditions today.After 50 years of independence, the ruins still speak of a glorious but fading past. Joanne wants to preserve the Victoria Memorial, which is constantly facing harshness of the weather and a critique of the British Raj.Joanne confesses her work is only a passion to enliven the past. She fears that with time the gardens will overgrow with grasses and block the view to these places. She was glad when the book launch at Kolkata allowed her to invite people of her own choice. She had a list of 65 people who joined in enthusiastically. In her childhood she wanted to grow up as a writer or an artist. Her writings and dreams have now unfolded. The author says she is better received in India than in her home country. "I never had this great success in Australia, but here in India," she concludes fondly.Joanne Taylor revisits ruins to discover and recuperate them, in her book, "The forgotten places of Calcutta."